Stephen Harper may have been known as the (embarrassingly poor) musician in Canadian politics, but a recent announcement by Premier Christy Clark will certainly be music to many ears in B.C.
On Thursday, Feb. 11, Clark announced the creation of the B.C. Music Fund, promising that a sum of $15 million would be available for workers in the B.C. music industry.
The money, under the stewardship of the fine arts organization Creative B.C., will be available to musicians, promoters, record companies, and other facets of the B.C. music industry, with applications expected to start rolling in by late 2016.
Nick Blasko is the co-founder and co-director of both Atomique Productions
— the company in charge of Rifflandia and Rock the Shores — and of Amelia Artists , which manages artists Tegan and Sara and the Funk Hunters. He attended the announcement in Vancouver after actively lobbying on behalf of the grant for the past nine months.
“Well, first of all I’ll say that I was thrilled,” said Blasko, “because I really think it’s a step in the right direction and it just represented, finally, some acknowledgement of the importance of our industry.”
Making the announcement on a stage alongside various local musical legends like Michael Bublé and Sarah McLachlan, Clark praised B.C. as one of Canada’s “leading centres for music,” noting the importance of music in “[developing] culture, [promoting] talent and [diversifying B.C.’s] strong and growing economy.
Blasko called the investment “refreshing” and stressed the importance of grants for local artists.
“I think they’re incredibly important,” said Blasko, recognizing that grants help musicians both famous and undiscovered. “Having some support to grow your audiences, whether it’s showcasing or just developing your product . . . [is] key.”
The grant comes days after Music Canada, a Canadian NGO that supports musicians and record companies in Canada, released a report declaring that B.C.’s music industry is “in serious decline”.
Bublé, who wrote a foreword for the report, lamented that “opportunities for musicians are few and further between,” and said the grant should go some way to fixing that problem.
The involvement of such big names in both the Music Canada report and Clark’s announcement shows how many people were concerned in the creation of the fund.
“I can’t think of any other time when everyone has come together so clearly towards one goal,” said Blasko. “Massive celebrity artists down to just brand new singer/songwriters or established managers, young managers — you name it. It was pretty cool.”
While Blasko doesn’t necessarily agree with Clark’s statement that B.C. could become the Nashville of Canada for music (“Nothing is going to be the ‘Nashville,’” says Blasko. “A city is going to be its own entity and stand on its own feet.”), he still believes that B.C. can become a leader in the Canadian music industry.
“I think that Vancouver can become an absolute hotspot for music in Canada,” Blasko says.
The B.C. Music Fund marks the second piece of good financial news for musicians in B.C. and Canada, following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise to double investment in the Canada Arts Council to the tune of $360 million.
The government will now discuss the best way to distribute the grant, with a similar fund in Ontario likely to serve as a blueprint for how to continue.
While Blasko acknowledges there is more work to do, he is happy to revel in the moment.
“I think this is actually a really big moment,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that I think are skeptical, and some of them for good reason because they don’t understand our industry.
“I’m here to explain to anyone that wants to know . . . this is good.”